Symbolism in the Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

1758 WordsJan 7, 20108 Pages
John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" is a story that is full of symbolism. After the first read, it might seem like an innocent tale about a woman and her garden. However, upon further examination, the reader learns it is actually a story about a woman's desires and frustrations in her life. Steinbeck uses many examples, such as the flowers to symbolize the thoughts and ideas of the main character, Elisa, in this story. Elisa Allen is a lonesome woman who gets pleasure from growing her chrysanthemums. Since her husband, Henry, is constantly working with the cattle in their farm, Elisa never receives enough attention or any kind of affection. This neglect from her husband causes her to turn to her chrysanthemums, which she…show more content…
Once again, the connection there is that he was interested in her flowers, meaning herself. The man says, “Kind of a long-stemmed flower? Looks like a quick puff of colored smoke?”…”That’s it. What a nice way to describe them.” Elisa feels appreciated and attractive to this stranger after this comment. His compliment to her about her flowers leads her to feel obligated to allow him to fix her pots. After Elisa lets the tinker into the yard, she goes and gets a bright red flower pot. The fact that the pot is red is important here because red is a symbol of power and passion. At this point in the story, Elisa is starting to feel her own power. She is understanding she can bring forth life in her flowers, even if she is not powerful in other aspects of her life. Also, since the encounter with the man is likened to a sexual experience, the red flower pot is significant of their passion for one another, while the pot is symbolic of herself and her feelings. When Elisa is digging up the flowers to put in the pot, Steinbeck comments that "The gloves were forgotten now". This part of the story is when she is coming to the height of her experience with the salesman. Digging in the dirt is raw and it makes her feel free. While she was being sexually frustrated Elisa in the beginning of the story, and covering her hands with gloves, now she has been liberated. After she explains about the how to care for the fragile
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